Opinion

What's the best approach when it comes to customer reviews?

4 min read

10 November 2016

I’s becoming apparent that earning Google stars is a great way to secure your place at, or at least near, the top of search rankings. As such, there’s a new wave of companies far more interested in gaining customer reviews.

It might be the case that these businesses have previously showed little to no interest in gaining customer reviews, but companies are now prepared to do what it takes to gain leverage on the search results.

Good customer reviews above all else?

It’s very tempting to pursue potential good reviews above all others. Aside from the blow to the ego, bad reviews can cost you stars; anything less than perfect detracts from that five-star dream and the host of benefits, from SERP (Search Engine Ranking Page) positions through to organic traffic and conversions. When put like this, why would an ambitious business owner with SEO in mind want to run the risk of negative reviews?

If a company does chose to take a selective approach to reviews, how can it guarantee good reviews? For those operating a small store in person, for instance, this may be a lot easier. Having face to face interaction enables you to assess and influence the customer’s experience personally, and judge whether they are happy or have any complaints at the time.

Furthermore, other tactics include prioritising reviews on products or services that are the “best’” offerings, the ones with quickest delivery, promotional pricing or premium branding, for example. A lot of companies also rely on incentivisation in order to boost customer reviews; something that Amazon has recently banned after realising just how much incentivisation can sway the review results. If a customer thinks they may be rewarded, they are far more likely to be favourable.

But should businesses do it, and at what cost?

The question is not whether or not it can be done, or whether or not it can be effective; it is actually around whether businesses should do it, regardless. It’s not necessarily complicated to execute and it will gain you Google stars far more quickly, and deliver the online benefits. But what about when a customer relies upon the reviews and finds that their own experience pales in comparison? Or when they then leave a lower-star review and notice that it doesn’t appear online, like all the other shining ones? Suddenly, the safe strategy looks a lot riskier.

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The purpose of reviews, from the consumer perspective, is to understand more about the business; to find out if is worthy of trust. If the business is looking to deceive or trick people at this stage, for its own benefit, consumers will quickly catch on and will be affronted – and react accordingly, by taking their business elsewhere and no doubt making sure they spread the word as far as they can.

Moreover, it has been demonstrated that consumers expect to see a mix of good and bad reviews, and actually having only positive reviews can lead to a consumer becoming suspecting of a business.

From a business perspective, a genuine review strategy will enable the company to better understand its customers – and itself. There are so many points raised in real reviews, particularly from those that are slightly less than perfect, that go on to help businesses improves its offering and become bigger and more successful.

Request real feedback from customers, thereby showcasing an accurate rating score, and gain access to reliable business insights to make better decisions. By asking all customers, it also means you get more reviews, become a trusted business and ensures you won’t fall victim to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) who are clamping down on the reviews process.

Andrew Mabbutt, CEO at reviews and customer analytics platform, www.feefo.com

Image: Shutterstock